The Most Confusing Rumor of the Off-Season

Ever since the Rockies signed Gerardo Parra, the Rockies trade of an outfielder has felt fait acompli, and given that they’re not really contenders this year, dealing Carlos Gonzalez has appeared to be the pretty obvious move. Given his strong second half and the fact that he’s only under team control for two more seasons — at a not-exactly-bargain-price of $38 million — while fellow outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are under control for three and four more years respectively, it seems pretty logical for CarGo to be one on the move, though the Rockies have been entertaining offers on all three. Which is perfectly rational; you might as well weigh your options before deciding on a course of action.

But this morning, Ken Rosenthal reported that Corey Dickerson is the most likely outfielder to be on the move, and Rays beat writer Mark Topkin followed up with a somewhat confirming note of his own, including the player most likely to be leaving Tampa Bay if the two teams do strike a deal.

While acknowledging that this may just be the framework of a larger deal, or perhaps the first step of a series of moves, I’m hard pressed to think of a trade that makes less sense to me than Corey Dickerson for Jake McGee.

You know what the non-contending Rockies need more of? Good solid players they can build around for the future, like, say, Corey Dickerson. You know what the Rockies don’t really need at this point? A injury-prone closer with only two years of team control remaining, and one whose salary will skyrocket in arbitration if he stays healthy and racks up a bunch of saves. Yes, the Rockies bullpen stinks, but when you’re not really in contention, you can afford to give chances to young unproven guys; the ability to create assets by giving players opportunities is one of the huge advantages of not focusing on short-term results. And it’s not bringing McGee in to pitch at Coors Field is a great way to raise his trade value, so even if the team is looking to get him to flip him this summer, that seems like a dubious strategy.

From the Rays side, turning two years of McGee into four years of Dickerson would be a pretty smart move, except it’s not entirely clear what they’d do with Dickerson. They have Desmond Jennings and Steven Souza in their corner outfield spots, and it seems unlikely they’d want to displace either of those two at this point in their careers. They could move Dickerson to first base — something the Rockies could just do as well — except that they’ve got kind of a logjam there, between James Loney and Logan Morrison from the left side and Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer from the right side.

Loney and Morrison are not any good, so swapping in Dickerson for either would be an upgrade, but that was kind of the point of signing Pearce last week; it doesn’t seem likely that they want to relegate him to the weak side of a platoon right after signing him. And they just traded for Morrison a few months ago, so presumably, they’re not quite ready to give up on him just yet.

From a pure asset standpoint, turning two years of an injury prone closer into four years of a solid average corner outfielder would be worth doing, but the Rays don’t really need an average corner outfielder, so as Topkin noted, it would be a move that forced some other pieces to fall into place. But even with that, it wouldn’t really explain why the Rockies would want to trade Dickerson for a reliever. After all, the combination of Parra and McGee will make $13 million next year and probably closer to $16-$17 million in 2017; if they really wanted to just upgrade their bullpen, they could have thrown that money at a reliever in the free agent class and just kept Dickerson, retaining the younger outfielder rather than signing an older hitter and trading for a pitcher.

I’m sure getting pitchers to actually agree to sign in Colorado is difficult — and no reliever on the market this winter is as dominant as a healthy Jake McGee — but I still find it hard to see how signing Parra to trade Dickerson for a short-term relief upgrade helps the Rockies do anything that they should want to be doing. If you’re optimistic about both Parra and McGee, maybe this pushes them from 74 to 76 wins or something, but it’s also quite possible that Parra is worse than Dickerson, offsetting most of the gain of adding McGee to the bullpen. And that’s without accounting for the fact that a Parra/McGee combination would be more expensive and have less long-term value than a Dickerson/FA reliever duo.

Most likely, if and when the deal is announced, there will be more pieces to the deal — or a follow-up trade — that will help explain the motivation that is driving these teams in this direction. The Rays side is at least fairly easy to imagine, especially if someone else is willing to overpay for Jennings or something. On the Rockies side, I would hope that there’s something else of note coming back besides McGee, or that they’re acquiring him with the intention of trading him elsewhere in the near future. If the Rockies really are trading a decent young hitter for a short-term bullpen upgrade in a year where they don’t really have much of a chance to contend, then it will be tough to see how the Rockies new front office is demonstrably different than the old one.


August Fagerstrom FanGraphs Chat – 1/26/16

11:43
august fagerstrom: hey guys! gonna be a few minutes late today but I’ll make up for it by chatting long

11:44
august fagerstrom: get those questions in, and I’ll be here shortly after noon EST

12:08
august fagerstrom: ok! I’ve now equipped myself with a reuben sandwich and am ready to chat. chat soundtrack is this live Fela Kuti recording:

12:09
Chad: Your thoughts on Low tier SP, Kyle Ryan, Shane Greene, and Steven Wright?

12:09
august fagerstrom: certainly isn’t a promising group, but out of the bunch I’ll take Greene, for the upside.

12:09
FTF: What would be your NL East favourite ?

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The Unusually Compelling Kyle Gibson: Just a Tweak Away?

Kyle Gibson?”

That was the first comment from my piece, yesterday, on Francisco Liriano, who embodies a league-wide trend of pitchers subtly altering their approach and hitters seemingly failing to adjust. You see, Gibson’s name was twice invoked in a group of unique pitchers, and, given the context of the groups, Gibson stuck out as something of a stranger in the room.

The first group looked like this:

OK, then.

The second group looked like this:

The second group is less illustrious than the first, but Gibson finds himself surrounded by some impressive company regardless. The first group, the distinguished group, is made up of the pitchers who most often got batters to chase pitches out of the zone in 2015. The second group is made up of the pitchers who worked out of the zone most often in 2015.

So, you’ve got Kyle Gibson, here, in both these groups, throwing pitches outside the strike zone all day long and getting batters to chase at them like Carrasco, and deGrom, and Kluber, and Scherzer. And you’ve got Kyle Gibson, here, who had one of the lower strikeout rates in baseball last year, and has K’ed fewer than six batters per nine innings over the course of his career, while his chase-inducing contemporaries like Carrasco, and deGrom, and Kluber, and Scherzer are striking out 10 batters per nine and overpowering lineups across the major league.

What gives? Where are all of Kyle Gibson’s whiffs? He already turned himself into a solid pitcher, a three-win pitcher, last season, racking up nearly 200 innings with an ERA, FIP, and xFIP all under 4.00. He’s proven himself as a quality arm. Take a quality arm and add some extra strikeouts, and you’ve got a dominant arm. And it seems like he should be getting those extra strikeouts. Yet, here we are.

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The Missing Free-Agent Class of 2017

Featuring Chris Davis, Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, David Price, and Justin Upton, this offseason’s free-agent class was one of the best in recent history. Of that group, Davis, Heyward, and Price entered free agency with the minimum six years of service time, while Greinke was taking his second bite at the free agency apple and Upton had his slightly delayed by a contract extension signed with Arizona before the 2010 season. Of this year’s class, Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija, and Jordan Zimmermann also went without contract extensions before hitting free agency, creating one fantastic class. Next year’s class is much weaker — not because there are fewer valuable players who’ve recorded similar service time, but rather because so many great players entered contract extensions delaying free agency.

Yoenis Cespedes has a one-year opt-out in his new contract with the Mets that will enable him to enter a poor free-agent class with aging hitters like Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, and Edwin Encarnacion; mid-level outfielders like Carlos Gomez and Josh Reddick; just one elite pitcher in Stephen Strasburg; and a few elite closers in Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Next year’s class was not always like this. A slow erosion of free-agent eligible players occurred over the last several years, robbing the market of what could have been one of the greatest free-agent classes of all time.

Consider the following timeline:

  • March 26, 2012 — Milwaukee Brewers sign catcher Jonathan Lucroy to five-year deal worth $11 million with an option to take the deal through the 2017 season.

Jonathan Lucroy
PA HR wRC+ WAR
At the time of the deal 765 16 84 2.2
Since the extension 1996 50 120 14.0
  • April 16, 2012 — San Francisco Giants sign Madison Bumgarner to five-year deal beginning in 2013 worth $35 million with two options that could take the deal through the 2019 season.

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The Beginning of the End for Pitch-Framing?

Pitch-framing as an idea has existed for almost as long as the game, but it wasn’t until we started getting numbers for it that people really started to think about it in depth. At that point we were introduced to the idea of a catcher potentially being worth a few extra wins just because of how he catches pitches behind the plate. That was startling, and it was fascinating, but there was an important question that wasn’t being discussed enough — is the existence of pitch-framing good? Valid arguments on either side. But it seemed that there was nothing to be done until we got an automated strike zone. Humans will be humans, after all.

On the other hand, humans can change. Humans can learn; humans can be trained. One interesting observation during the PITCHf/x era is that, over time, those human umpires have collectively started to call an increasingly consistent zone. PITCHf/x provided feedback, and umpires could get better as a result. Now, I can’t help but wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of the end for pitch-framing. Catchers are always going to catch a little differently, but I wonder if there are fewer available rewards.

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Job Posting: TrackMan Cape Cod Data & Operations Intern

Position: TrackMan Cape Cod Data & Operations Intern

Location: Cape Cod

Description:
At TrackMan Baseball we measure stuff – the speed, spin and movement of pitched and hit baseballs.

We do this using proprietary 3D Doppler radar hardware and software. The majority of Major League teams use our products and services for player development and evaluation. We also work with collegiate, Japanese and Korean teams, premier amateur baseball organizations, broadcasters and equipment manufacturers.

Our business is growing fast. By the start of next season we will have a network of radars installed in more than 100 stadiums on three continents, and dozens of remote systems traveling the US.

We are looking for a TrackMan Data & Operations Intern to be our hands and eyes on the ground at Cape Cod Baseball League games during the 2016 summer. The D&O Intern will be out in the field on a daily basis focused primarily on operating the TrackMan system and ensuring data quality measures are effectively in place at the point of capture. You will be an integral piece of ensuring the added TrackMan value to players, coaches, college teams, and Major League teams. This position runs from June 10th – August 13 and pays $25/game.

Responsibilities:

  • For all scheduled CCBL games, operate the TrackMan system and ensure all data is being captured effectively, as well as validate the quality and accuracy of all captured data.
  • Support the TrackMan data operations teams in ad-hoc data requests and evaluations.

Qualifications:

  • Current college student or recent graduate with education focused on Sports Management, Statistics / Mathematics, Operations Management, or similar.
  • Strong computer skills (will be using the TrackMan application regularly and may need to do basic system navigation / follow Help Desk step-by-step in case of issues).
  • Strong knowledge of baseball rules (comfort in baseball culture a plus).
  • Passion for the game of baseball.
  • Experience in Project Management a plus.
  • Basic database and/or analytics experience a plus.
  • Ability to lift upwards of 50 lbs.

Compensation:
This position is compensated.

To Apply:
To apply, please send a resume to Kirby Young at kmy@trackman.dk. No phone calls please.


FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron on the Art of Mediocrity

Episode 627
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio, during which edition he explores the non-issue of tanking in baseball, the prolonged mediocrity of the Colorado Rockies, and also the prolonged mediocrity of everything else, probably.

This edition of the program is sponsored by Draft, the first truly mobile fantasy sports app. Compete directly against idiot host Carson Cistulli by clicking here.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 43 min play time.)

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Picking the Top of the NL East

Two things were dumped on the DC area over the course of the weekend: an unfathomable volume of snow, and the news that Yoenis Cespedes was turning down the Nationals’ offer and returning to the Mets. In Washington, Cespedes would’ve replaced someone who’s already a decent center fielder. In New York, Cespedes will replace someone who’s already a decent center fielder. But now Juan Lagares is valuable depth, instead, and for either team, Cespedes represented some sort of improvement. So it was a damaging blow, effectively concluding what for the Nationals has been a frustrating offseason of almosts. The Mets, on the other hand, have reason to celebrate. They kept Cespedes, and on their own terms.

In a way it’s an extension of the Nationals’ narrative of disappointment. It’s also an extension of the Mets’ narrative of triumphant underdogging. There’s carryover from the last regular season, when the Nationals were one of the most disappointing winning teams in memory. That’s going to remain the most recent baseball until there’s even more recent baseball, but for the Nationals it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Spoiler alert: this is going to be another poll post. I’m going to ask you to pick the top of the NL East. I’ll offer my own pick, but I’ll put it down in the comments, so as to avoid any bias.

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FG on Fox: The Precedent for Evan Gattis’ Triples

Evan Gattis was probably never fast. That is, he wasn’t fast in comparison to many baseball players he was around while coming up through the minors. He certainly isn’t fast now, and at this point, we can confidently say that he probably never will be. And that’s fine, because speed isn’t really his game: coming into the 2015 season, he had zero stolen bases and one triple in his career. We’re all familiar with how Gattis contributes in other ways, like hitting baseballs 450 feet. Yet despite his lackluster speed, by the end of the 2015 season, he updated his career statistics to read zero stolen bases – and 12 triples.

In the span of one season, Gattis increased his triples total by a factor of 12. Because of that fact, this was a big story for most of the season; a simple internet search yields many articles ranking and commenting on his ever-increasing number of triples during 2015. Today, instead of viewing and ranking each one, we’re going to go deep on how strange and rare it is for someone as slow as Gattis to do this.

To begin with, we’re going to use a statistic called Speed Score. Very simply put, it’s a way of measuring a player’s speed and baserunning ability. Speed Score is on a scale from zero (walks around the bases) to ten (fastest/best baserunning human who has ever lived), so it’s fairly easy to grasp, and it tends to make some intuitive sense. There are a few main factors that go into a player’s score: stolen base rate, number of stolen base attempts, triple rate, and double play rate being a few of the main ones. To give you some examples, the best qualified hitter by Speed Score since 1920 is Jarrod Dyson. If you’ve watched the playoffs during the past two seasons, you know how fast Dyson is. The worst players by Speed Score are usually catchers, with Chris Snyder (who mainly played for the Diamondbacks in the early-to-mid 2000’s) at the very bottom.

So let’s see where Gattis fits into this Speed Score spectrum. First let’s look at the first two seasons of his career combined – 2013 and 2014. Here are the worst position players by Speed Score in those two years (minimum 750 plate appearances), with the number of triples each player hit:

Worst Speed Scores (w/ Triples), 2013-2014
Name Speed Score Triples
Kendrys Morales 0.8 0
Billy Butler 1.0 0
Miguel Montero 1.1 0
Adam Dunn 1.1 0
Justin Smoak 1.2 0
Evan Gattis 1.2 1
Matt Dominguez 1.3 0
A.J. Ellis 1.4 1
Brian McCann 1.4 1
Alberto Callaspo 1.4 0
SOURCE: FanGraphs

We have three designated hitters here, a catcher, and a first baseman. Then we have Evan Gattis. We said before that he wasn’t fast, but let’s put it another way: Gattis was one of the very slowest — and worst — baserunners by Speed Score during 2013 and 2014. He was around the first or second percentile in the majors. These ten players above hit a combined three triples during these two seasons — basically, these types of players very rarely hit triples (and that helps bring their score down as well). Gattis actually improved remarkably by Speed Score in 2015, getting all the way up to 3.9 (46th percentile!) — but we can be quite confident that most of that increase was due to the number of triples he hit, and not other factors, like his aptitude at stealing bases (which did not improve).

Read the rest on Fox Sports.


Tanking: Does MLB Really Have a Problem?

Tanking. It’s a buzzword, and over the last few months, one that has gained some traction in regards to Major League Baseball. Back in December, Buster Olney wrote about the issue as one of his 10 things to watch in 2016.

The Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs both had great seasons in 2015, reaching the playoffs with young and exciting and talented teams built through a tear down to build up approach. After cutting spending and losing a lot of games in successive years and finishing at the bottom of the standings, the Astros and Cubs had picked at or near the top of the draft and had access to players such as Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant.

The impolite phrase for this is much more common in the National Basketball Association: tanking.

Now it appears that the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers are in the midst of a similar approach, with the possibility that the Reds and other teams could follow. MLB might have a situation in years to come that 10 percent to perhaps a quarter of the teams are designing failure.

A few weeks ago, Jayson Stark went into greater detail.

But on the other side of that divide, we have the Phillies, Reds, Brewers and Braves. And we can find some execs out there who would throw the Rockies and Padres into that mix, too.

Those teams have various ways of describing what it is they’re up to. But assembling a team that’s built to win a World Series in 2016? Let’s just say that wouldn’t make the top 25 ways other clubs would describe it.

“I’ve never seen the game so messed up,” grumbled one exec from an NL team on the “win-now” side of the Not So Great Divide.

“I think it’s a problem for the sport,” said an executive of an American League contender, looking at the state of the NL from afar. “I think the whole system is screwed up, because I think it actually incentivizes not winning. And that’s a big issue going forward.”

It’s interesting that this issue is being raised at a time when baseball is experiencing a golden age of parity. The Kansas City Royals just won the World Series, the New York Yankees are the only team not to sign a free agent to a Major League contract this winter, and, in my view, we have more teams than ever before trying to win in any given season. While there is absolutely a huge divide between the good and bad teams in the National League, that is a byproduct of the fact that the American League is so condensed that all 15 teams see themselves as contenders this year.

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Yoenis Cespedes and Next Year’s Poor Free-Agent Class

Yoenis Cespedes didn’t sign a bad contract, but he certainly signed a surprising one. With Chris Davis and Jason Heyward receiving more than $150 million, and Justin Upton in the picture with a $130 million, it would figure that Yoenis Cespedes might line up somewhere in that range. Perhaps not above Upton, but certainly above $100 million. Consider: the Cuban outfielder just produced a career year at age 29 which saw him record 35 home runs and nearly seven wins above replacement. Furthermore, wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer, meaning a signing club wouldn’t have the burden of sacrificing a draft pick. The contract he did sign with the Mets pays him $75 million over three years, which seems like a small total guarantee relative to the rest of the free-agent class, but the opt-out and the opportunity to return to free agency next year does provide Cespedes with another opportunity to cash in.

If Cespedes decides to stick with his current contract, he’ll be a free agent entering his age-33 season after making $75 million dollars. While that is not the ideal scenario for him, if he is still playing well at that time, he might end up making close to the amount Justin Upton is to be paid over the next six years. If Cespedes plays poorly over the next three years, he will at least have his $75 million — not what he would have hoped, but also preferable to just a one-year pillow contract.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 1/25/16

12:01
Dan Szymborski: I see like the first 10 questions in the queue are off-topic. Saving most of them for the Lightning Round.
12:01
Guest: If the Astros do end up signing Gallardo, where would a rotation of
12:01
Guest: Where would a rotation of Keuchel/McHugh/McCullers/Fiers/Gallardo rotation rank in the AL if the Astros do indeed end up signing him?
12:01
Dan Szymborski: Ah, found the rest farther down.
12:02
Dan Szymborski: Not doing final ranks until we get closer to the season. I’m not high on Gallardo though so I can’t say it would be significant.
12:03
Dan Szymborski: There are some very scary trends in Gallardo’s line.

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Francisco Liriano and a League-Wide Trend

It’s been true for each of the last five years, that Francisco Liriano has finished each season with a higher strikeout rate than the one before it. It’s been true for each of the last four years, that Liriano has finished each season with a slower average fastball velocity than the one before it. The magnitude of these differences isn’t substantial — he’s gained a little more than 2% on his strikeout rate since 2012 and lost a little more than 2 mph — but the trends exist, and they’re headed in opposite directions.

We live in a world where older pitchers are holding their velocity better than ever before, and some are even gaining, despite what decades of convention have led us to believe. Velocity is up. Velocity is correlated with strikeouts, and strikeouts are up. Name a trait or outcome that’s positive for a pitcher — it’s probably up.

Yet clearly, something else besides velocity is working in Liriano’s favor.

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Projecting the DFA’d Rymer Liriano

The Padres last week designated outfield prospect Rymer Liriano for assignment to clear a roster spot for the newly signed Alexei Ramirez. The move became yet another curious move in a string of questionable decisions by A.J. Preller and his front-office staff. Not only does Liriano have a prospect pedigree, but San Diego had multiple outfielders on its 40-man roster who could be described as “fringy,” namely Jabari Blash, Alex Dickerson and Travis Jankowski. Yes, Liriano is out of options, but I have a hard time thinking he’s a worse prospect than Blash, who — as a Rule 5 pick — also is out of options.

In some ways, Liriano looks the part of an exciting prospect. The 24-year-old’s power, speed and throwing arm grade out as better than average. Relatively few prospects have such a strong and diverse collection of skills. Furthermore, he’s parlayed those tools into some nice numbers in the high minors. He hit .291/.375/.466 with nearly 40 steals between Double-A and Triple-A in the past last two seasons.

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2016 ZiPS Projections – Washington Nationals

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Washington Nationals. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles NL / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Texas / Toronto.

Batters
This set of ZiPS projections for the Nationals represents the 23rd post in this offseason series. A brief examination of the 22 previous installments reveals that no field player has received as robust a forecast yet as Bryce Harper (579 PA, 6.9 zWAR) does here. The other top contenders? Josh Donaldson (6.6 zWAR), Buster Posey (6.3), and Andrew McCutchen (6.0). Conspicuous by his absence from that brief list, of course, is Mike Trout. As for when Szymborski intends to release the Angels’ projections, one can only speculate as to that heartless monster’s plans.

Apart from their outfield wunderkind, the Nationals’ collection of batters is rather ordinary. Third baseman Anthony Rendon (512 PA, 3.3 zWAR) has the benefit both of youth and also a six-win season in his recent past. Otherwise, no starting field player receives a projection that reaches even the two-win threshold, the recently acquired Daniel Murphy (606 PA, 1.9 zWAR) representing the best of the remaining six.

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FanGraphs Audio: Aaron Gleeman on His Lunch Break

Episode 626
Aaron Gleeman is a contributor to NBC’s Hardball Talk and longtime proprietor of AaronGleeman.com. He’s also the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio, during which episode he laments both (a) his inability to fully participate in the human adventure and also (b) everything else.

This edition of the program is sponsored by Draft, the first truly mobile fantasy sports app. Compete directly against idiot host Carson Cistulli by clicking here.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 7 min play time.)

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Sunday Notes: Nicolino’s K, Rangers, Rosario, Andrelton or Jeter, more

In an era where punch outs are more common than ever, Justin Nicolino is an anomaly. Of the 328 pitchers who threw 50-or-more innings last year, 327 had a higher strikeout rate than the 24-year-old left-hander. In his rookie season for the Miami Marlins, Nicolino fanned just 23 batters in 74 innings.

Despite the dearth of Ks, Nicolino enjoyed a modicum of success. He won five of his nine decisions, and his 4.01 ERA was certainly respectable. In seven of his 12 starts he allowed two or fewer runs.

Nicolino knows that he probably has to K more than 2.8 batters per nine innings in order to remain in a big league rotation. That doesn’t mean he has to become Steve Carlton. In 1976, Randy Jones had a 2.7 K/9 and won the National League Cy Young award. Five years earlier, Dave McNally went 21-9, 2.89 while posting a 3.7 K/9. Jamie Moyer, yet another crafty lefty, was at 5.4 for his career. Read the rest of this entry »


Yoenis Cespedes, Center Fielder

Yoenis Cespedes will return to the Mets, and from the team’s side of things, there’s almost nothing not to like about the arrangement. Even in the worst-case scenario where Cespedes just ends up a dead $75 million, he’s off the books before the starting pitchers hit free agency. And far more likely is that Cespedes opts out in a year, making him sort of an extended rental, without the long-term concern. Mets fans get to see their team spend, and they get to embrace a dynamic outfielder without bearing witness to a frustrating decline. If Cespedes opts out, the Mets can collect a draft pick. He’s better than what the Mets were going to go with, and Juan Lagares is still around to help, even if this means Alejandro De Aza has to disappear. The Mets’ chances of winning everything just got better.

It’s cause for celebration. Cespedes even turned down a bigger guarantee to go back to New York, because he likes it there, and this money might not otherwise have gone back into the team. Of course, Cespedes is unlikely to repeat his 2015. He blew past his career numbers, and with the Mets, he got to feast against some light stretch-run competition. People are aware that Cespedes struggled in the playoffs, and people are aware of his barely-.300 OBP. His game is power, and power’s inconsistent. But Cespedes has yet to be anything but an above-average player. The Mets know what they have in Cespedes as a hitter. What they don’t know, as much, is what they have in Cespedes as a defender. It’s probably the biggest question about his 2016.

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The Best of FanGraphs: January 18-22, 2016

Each week, we publish north of 100 posts on our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times, orange for TechGraphs and blue for Community Research.
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Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets’ Big Bet Against Fielding

When the Mets and Royals met in the World Series a few months ago, it was billed as an extreme clash of styles. The Royals were the best defensive team in baseball; the Mets were, well, not. They weren’t as bad in the field as their reputation may have suggested, but with Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores, and Yoenis Cespedes playing up the middle in the postseason, the Mets weren’t exactly the rangiest club around. And then, during fall classic, the Mets lived down to their reputation.

The Royals didn’t win the World Series solely because of the Mets defensive miscues — KC made a few of their own, in fact, and those were forgotten about because they won — but it’s hard not to remember the fielding lapses, and heading into the winter, the assumption was that the team would spend the off-season upgrading that weakness. Instead, however, the Mets have made an even bigger bet against the value of defense this winter.

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